Yesterday we talked briefly about the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today we want to tell you a bit about Esther, who has her own book in the Old Testament, of course, so we know a lot about her.
She was selected by the powerful King Xerxes I of 300 fame to be his wife. Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces from Ethiopia in Africa to India. He was also known by his Hebrew name, Ahasuerus, so you may see that referenced in some sources.
Esther came into the picture in the third year of his reign & the Book of Esther bevies with a banquet for the nobles of the Persian empire.
Xerxes was having problems with his queen, Vashti, at the banquet. She refused to appear when commanded & this just was not acceptable to such a ruler, so he divorced her on the spot. He then started a search for a new wife & out of all of the beautiful maidens presented to him, he chose the Jewish girl Esther. She had grown up among the Jewish exiles in Persia & lived under the protection of her cousin Mordecai. Cyrus, a previous king, had given permission for the exiles to return to Jerusalem, but Mordecai’s family chose to stay in Persia.
Esther had a part in saving Xerxes life too. Mordecai was a chief minister & had overhead a plot to assassinate the King. He let Esther know & she was able to tell her husband of the plot in time to prevent the crime.
But all was not well for the Jews in Persia… Even after they had saved the King. The grand vizier, Haman, ordered Mordecai to do obeisance to him & the proud Jew refused. This lead Haman to convince Xerxes that the Jews were disloyal & led to a proclamation ordering the the confiscation of Jewish property & the extermination of all Jews in the empire.
In that place in that time, even a queen could not approach the king without being summoned, & Esther had not seen him in thirty days. But brave Esther dress in her best, made herself as attractive as possible, & went before the King. When the King asked her what she wanted, she invited him & Haman to a banquet. At that banquet (which must have been more than up to kingly standards), she invited them to dine with her again the next day. Haman, villain that he was, planned to celebrate this honor by having a gallows erected to hang Esther’s cousin Mordecai, however…
The King wasn’t able to sleep that night, so he ordered that the chronicles of Persia be read to him (probably a very effective sleep aid). While listening, Xerxes realized that Mordecai had never been rewarded for saving his life. The crafty King asked Haman what he thought a suitable reward show be & the vizier suggested the use of the King’s royal insignia & apparel. Imagine his shock when these important items were bestowed not on Haman, but on his hated enemy, Mordicai.
All of this time Xerxes was unaware that Esther was a Jew. It was not until the second dinner party that she admitted this to him & elaborated on the plot of Haman to destroy her people. The King had the evil Haman hanged on the gallows prepared for Mordecai & confiscated all of Haman’s property, giving it to Mordecai. He then made Mordecai his prime minister & issued a decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves.
The Jewish feast of Purim is held in memory of Esther’s deliverance of the Jews of Persia.
We hope that you have enjoyed this small trip through history & the tale of one of the many brave & noble women of the Bible.